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10 Tips In Hindsight From A Senior

I have been in school since the grand year of 2006.  In this “short” amount of time, I have learned quite a few things.  For instance, don’t drink liquors that don’t taste like they have alcohol in them; don’t use alarms with easily accessible snooze buttons, or the ever so popular, always knock entering your dorm room, even if you think your roommate is gone. *cringe*

Finishing up this December, I look back and understand a lot of things now, like why I did badly in certain classes, why I did well in others and more importantly how to keep your productivity up without your motivation going down.   This will be a brief overview of everything that has helped me throughout college.  We can safely say I have violated most of these. Let’s start with some of the basics…

Tip #1: Live in the dorm rooms the first year of college, and then get the hell out!

Dorms are good places to meet people and network with people of similar interests and majors.  You can get good advice and a lot of lifelong friends are made in the dorms, I included.  However, unless you are one of the very rare percentages of people who like the madness of a dorm hall constantly and no privacy, get out after one year.  Some can do it. Most can’t.  Leave it behind.  Dorm rooms destroy productivity.  There is nowhere to go to get away, your living space is small, and as a general rule, you will hate your roommate after this long in such a confined area.  Take my advice, get an apartment.

Tip #2: Get a job hippie!

Most students come into college thinking and working is the last thing on their mind.  I mean, what’s better than having parties every night?  The answer: everything.  Nothing is more mind-numbingly horrible than leaving college with over $70,000 in debt and just having a bachelor’s.  Jobs also make you more productive and more motivated outside of work.  They give you the satisfaction of having accomplished something and make you appreciate free time more.  Besides, everyone just complains about being bored anyway, might as well bring home some Benjamin’s.

#2.5: Get a job (that’s relevant)

Make sure the job you get is related to your major or desire after college.  Sure, in college you think, well $12 an hour to sit and take tickets at a food court is way better than working in your field for $9.  This is wrong.  Check the math. If you work 20 hours a week at those rates year round, it’s only a difference of $3000, but if you land a salary job after (or in) college, that amount can be made up in a single month.  Don’t take the easy path.

Tip #3: Organization

Now that you have a job and school, find a way to organize it.  Use some sort of Calendar system.  Personally, I’m in love with Google Calendar.  It sends you reminders, lets you easily share calendars, schedule appointments, (See this post) and assign yourself tasks.

Knowing when you have open time slots, how many assignments you have to do, or just being able to organize all of your syllabuses in a single place is a time saver.  I even copied links as to-do tasks in order to force myself to look at them.  You can also schedule bills.  It’s browser based and perfect for a student, plus if you get an app like Rainmaker you can just import your calendar onto your computer desktop.

Tip #4: Don’t Take Your Laptop to Class

“I’m going to take all sorts of good notes, and I will be able to look at them later and recall everything”.  WRONG.  Any help a laptop will bring you will only hurt you inversely with a 5x multiplier.  Just don’t do it, and if you have to, rip out the wireless card.  It’s the only way.  My GPA improved by a full point and a half after I stopped taking notes on my laptop.  It’s only a distraction.  If you do need a way to put notes on your computer, buy this pen.  Not only will you be able to import notes EXACTLY how you wrote them, but it will record audio as you write, so you can re-listen to the lecture. Combine this with Evernote and Dropbox and you have a solid head start.

Tip #5: Use LinkedIn

The next two tips are short.  Over 40% of all employers look at your LinkedIn profile after you apply for a job.  That’s a lot.  The number is increasing.  Do yourself a favor and put everything in there, and keep it up to date.

Tip #6: Don’t use your cell phone as an alarm clock.

It is way too easy to turn off the snooze or throw it across the room.  For maximum effectiveness, place an alarm clock outside of the room you are in and set more than one.  You will wake up and go get it just so you won’t rip your ears off.  Too many classes were skipped because of this easily avoidable mistake.

Tip #7: Go to class.

This one seems easy.  Go to class.  If you skip class because you can’t wake up in the morning, schedule later classes.  Try and get a job that schedules around your classes.  Most colleges have job boards and those employers are more than willing to work with you.  I have held, at any time during school, up to 3 jobs, and had no problem scheduling.  You should be able to get by with one just fine.  Even if you don’t think you are learning in class, chances are that you are.  You will recall more with audible learning than reading a book.

Tip #8: Study Tips

Don’t read the chapters.  This is not a tip to say that you shouldn’t skim the book, because you should.  Instead, focus on key words and skim around them if they aren’t easily understandable.  Not only have most teachers already imported the key parts into the slides, but books are riddled with useless crap to make the book longer and gain more money for the publisher.  It’s much more productive to study in other ways.

When reading slides, do what I do.  Delete the ones that are crap.  The biggest time waster I had at college was scrolling between 6 chapters of separately organized slides and trying to retain all of that knowledge.  Copy all the slides into a single session, in chapter order.  Delete the title slides, conclusion slides, slides with stupid pictures, and slides that have definitions like: International : involving more than one nation.  They are wasteful and you don’t learn anything by looking over them for more than 0 seconds.  Once you have it condensed, everything you look at will be entirely relevant.  You will learn more, and you will learn more quickly.

Tip #9: Take breaks

Taking intermittent breaks while studying, working, or anything you do in life.  Your brain works better and you will accomplish far greater things.  Being frustrated for extended periods of time never solved a thing.

Tip #10: Get Involved

Are you still reading this? Jeeze…I guess I’ll finish up then.  The only thing that I wish I had done in college was get involved in activities.  Join a pointless club, like skydiving or rowing.  They are fun, not mandatory, and a great way to meet an entirely different group of people than you are used to.  Not to mention, a lot of college clubs get awesome funding and you can do some really cool stuff for cheap.  It looks great on a resume, and is good for networking.

I will leave you with a few words of wisdom.  Go to college and have fun, but remember:  paying $900 dollars in student loans a month off on a $20,000 doesn’t only suck, it’s damn near impossible.  Put in the time now, and you will be glad you did for the rest of your life.  That being said, I have done a lot of stupid stuff, failed a few tests, gotten some bad grades, and racked up way more college expenses than I should have, but I have no regrets.